National Geographic : 1980 Jan
Japan's Last FrontieF HOKKAIDO By DOUGLAS LEE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STAFF Photographs by MICHAEL S. YAMASHITA 19th year. He had traveled more than seven hundred miles from his home near Japan's third largest city to do so. It was his introduction to a way of life he had barely dreamed of, one that was only possi ble in his country on its northernmost is land-Hokkaido. He told me his story one cold March after noon in a barn that rang with the cries of geese, turkeys, and a noisy assortment of other residents. The animals belonged to Saito-san, but clearly the barn belonged to his animals. Steam rose from a bull calf on the floor of the barn as the dairyman tended his farm's latest recruit, a Holstein all of ten minutes in this world. "You see, I was born near Osaka on Hon shu, the main island. I remember a few chil dren from farms attending my elementary school, but by junior high there were no farms left-only city." As the urban-bred son of a white-collar worker, Saito-san had stood in good position in the march that carries most of Japan's youth toward guaranteed lifetime employ ment in government or industry. Winter holds fast to the corrugatedslopes of Hokkaido'sMount Yotei even as spring unfurls below. Here in Japan'sfar north, an islandfrontierstill challenges questing spirits after a century of pioneering.